Archive for the ‘Movie Making’ Category

Gels, and their Proper Care

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Gels are useful, but pricey. Any budget-minded filmmaker should take good care of them. Here’s a helpful post from David Tames at Kino-Eye that details some simple ways to organize your gels so that they last longer.

Dimmer Boxes

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

When I was looking through the new edition of The Filmmaker’s Handbook, I noticed a lot of little changes and additions. An example: In a list of equipment to bring to the set, in the lighting category I noticed one addition: “dimmer boxes.” I can’t argue with that — dimmer boxes help one light with finesse, and they’re fairly easy to come by.

I went to the trouble of making a couple dimmers (aka “hand squeezers”) myself about a year and a half ago. I made a couple of 600 watt boxes, as well as a 1000 watt box. The supplies I got from the local home improvement store, though I remember that the 1000w dimmer was not widely available. If I remember correctly, I built all three dimmer for about $100 in supplies. They would have been cheaper, but the 1000w dimmer was considerably more expensive than the 600w.

In retrospect, instead of making those boxes, I would have been better off simply purchasing one of the many dimmer boxes or router speed controls (which can be used as a dimmer box) that are commercially available. They’re cheaper, they’re probably more reliable than anything I could build, and the heavy duty router speed controls can handle more power than the ones I built. Plus, the router speed controls have a safety fuse, which my self-built dimmers lack.

Shopping for some last week, I ran across lots of varieties. Here are some:

Dimmer Boxes:

Ikea Dimma – 300 Watts and under – $7.95
Note: Not useful for most motion picture lights, but if you just need something for practicals, these are nice and cheap.

Smith Victor – DC-1 Dimmer Control – 600 Watts and under – $23.95

Router Speed Controls:

Harbor Freight Tools – 15 Amps and lower – $19.99

MLCS Router Speed Control – 15 Amps and lower – $20.95 and $28.95, respectively, for the “home” and “industrial/commercial” use boxes

Grizzly G3555 Router Speed Control – 20 Amps and lower – $31.50

Rockler Router Speed Control – 20 Amps and lower – $39.99

If, however, you wish to build your own, you can find instructions in Blain Brown’s Motion Picture and Video Lighting, 2nd Edition (p. 241) and, of course, there are plans aplenty on the ‘net.

Resource for Writers: Occupational Outlook Handbook

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

Doing some researching and writing earlier this month, I was trying to decide on an appropriate occupation for a character I was creating. One of the most helpful online resources I found was the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

If you visit the site, go to the search box in the upper right hand corner and type an occupation. If your search terms are too specific, just make it more general (e.g., try “dental” instead of “dental technician”, which will give you lots of results). Eventually you should be led to an overview of the profession you’re seeking, including the types of wages that might be expected, the type of education required, and so on. Useful stuff for writers, particularly the stuff about the downsides to each job. Can you say “conflict”?

Of course, besides its usefulness to writers, people that are actually, you know, looking for jobs might appreciate the link, too. Being the lucrative, high-demand profession that independent filmmaking is, though, I doubt many readers of this blog would ever need to use the site in this way.

Pulling Focus

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

Focus is such a downright elemental part of the filmmaking process that it’s often taken for granted. Like sound, most moviegoers only notice it when it’s bad.

Aside from the occasional rack-focus, the work of a good 1st AC (or whoever’s pulling the focus) probably shouldn’t call attention to itself. And yet it’s work that takes nimble hands, good eyes, and a near-balletic sense of timing and movement.

I enjoyed FresHDV’s latest 3-part tutorial with Bob Sanchez on The Art of Focus Pulling, in which the FresHDV guys document Sanchez revealing how he approaches his work and some tricks of the trade.

Here are the links:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Aside from learning some things, after watching the series I went away appreciating even more how, when it’s done right, the craft/art of it is simultaneously invisible and right before your eyes. How’s that for a paradox?

Update from Matt Jeppsen of FresHDV:

When we posted the last clip in our three-part “Art of Pulling Focus” series, I had quite a few people e-mail me and specifically ask for a quicktime and/or HD version. Well at long last, here it is. We’re sharing the 15-min Part 3 hands-on demonstration video as a 720p H.264 clip, available here.

Filmmaking and the Environment

Saturday, October 13th, 2007

As you probably heard yesterday, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Al Gore. I’ve not always been a big supporter of Al’s, but I was definitely feeling some pride for the local boy done good (the second native Tennesseean to be awarded the Peace Prize, actually.).

Though the press reports usually got it wrong, as AJ Schnack reminded everyone yesterday, Gore did not win an Oscar for An Inconvenient Truth (because he didn’t direct it), but I have little doubt that the film — because of how it drew attention to the cause of global warming, and because it drew attention to Gore’s advocacy in the process — was a factor in Gore sharing this year’s Peace Prize. Looking over the list of previous Peace Prize winners, I couldn’t think of another instance in which cinema played such a central role in the awardee’s recognition.

Anyway, in the spirit of the announcement, I thought I would share some links and notes on environmentally-friendly filmmaking for those folks out there that, whether or not they like Al Gore, accept the findings of hundreds and hundreds of scientists from around the world that shared the Peace Prize for their work on man-made climate change research…